Lessons from the Champagne Fairs

Lessons from the Champagne Fairs - What Lessons for...

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What Lessons for Economic Development Can We Draw from the Champagne Fairs? Jeremy Edwards Sheilagh Ogilvie CES IFO W ORKING P APER N O . 3438 C ATEGORY 12: E MPIRICAL AND T HEORETICAL M ETHODS A PRIL 2011 An electronic version of the paper may be downloaded from the SSRN website: www.SSRN.com from the RePEc website: www.RePEc.org from the CESifo website: T www.CESifo-group.org/wp T
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CESifo Working Paper No. 3438 What Lessons for Economic Development Can We Draw from the Champagne Fairs? Abstract The medieval Champagne fairs are widely used to draw lessons about the institutional basis for long-distance impersonal exchange. This paper re-examines the causes of the outstanding success of the Champagne fairs in mediating international trade, the timing and causes of the fairs’ decline, and the institutions for securing property rights and enforcing contracts at the fairs. It finds that contract enforcement at the fairs did not take the form of private-order or corporative mechanisms, but was provided by public institutions. More generally, the success and decline of the Champagne fairs depended crucially on the policies adopted by the public authorities. JEL-Code: N430, N730, O170. Keywords: legal system, medieval Europe, trade, private-order institutions, community responsibility system. Jeremy Edwards Faculty of Economics University of Cambridge Sidgwick Avenue United Kingdom – Cambridge CB3 9DD [email protected] Sheilagh Ogilvie Faculty of Economics University of Cambridge Sidgwick Avenue United Kingdom – Cambridge CB3 9DD [email protected] April 2011 We thank Mathieu Arnoux, André Carus, Tracy Dennison, Tim Guinnane, John Henderson, Sara Horrell, Paola Lanaro, Gary Libecap, Erik Lindberg, Abhay Pethe, Tom Scott, James Thomson, Francesca Trivellato, Allan Tulchin, Pat Story, Hillay Zmora, and participants at the Cambridge Core Economic History Seminar and the 2011 Economic History Society Conference, for their helpful advice and stimulating comments.
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1 1. Introduction The Champagne fairs were a cycle of periodic trade fairs held annually from the twelfth century onwards. They took place six times a year and rotated among four towns – Bar-sur-Aube, Lagny, Provins and Troyes – located in the county of Champagne, a polity enjoying extensive internal autonomy until its incorporation into France in 1285. Each fair lasted for about six weeks, followed by a break for merchants to move on to the next fair, so the Champagne fair-cycle constituted an almost continuous market throughout the year, a notable advantage over most other medieval fairs. 1 Although merchants from many countries traded many goods at the Champagne fairs, the core business was the exchange of cloth and wool brought by Flemish and French traders for spices and luxuries brought by Italian and Provençal merchants. The Italian presence also fostered financial sophistication, and the fairs increasingly attracted international payment and exchange services. The Champagne
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This note was uploaded on 12/09/2011 for the course VARIOUS Various taught by Professor Various during the Fall '11 term at S.F. State.

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Lessons from the Champagne Fairs - What Lessons for...

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